Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

How to Grow your own Pineapple Indoors

novembre 2

Growing a pineapple (Ananas comosus) outdoors is simple enough if you live in the tropics, but indoors it’s a bit more tricky and you’ll need a lot of patience. Here’s how:

The easiest way is, of course, to simply buy a potted pineapple plant in a nursery. They often offer variegated or miniature varieties as indoor ornamentals. The real challenge (and pleasure) of growing a pineapple, though, is to start your own from scratch. To do so, buy a fresh pineapple at the grocery store. You still get to eat the fruit: it’s its crown – the tuft of leaves at the top of the fruit –  that you’ll need to produce a new plant. To harvest it, just take the fruit in one hand, slightly twist the crown with the other and it will detach quite neatly. Now remove a few rows of the small leaves at the base of the crown. By doing so, you’ll reveal a short section of stem… with roots already starting to form! Simply place the crown on a pot of moist potting soil, covering just  the base of the crown with mix. In just a few weeks, new leaves will emerge from the center of the crown, a sign that it is rooted. The crown is therefore no longer a crown, it’s a growing pineapple plant!

Note that you will see other blogs recommending you root the crown in water, then transplant it to soil later. That’s possible, but why bother? Water is not conducive to good growth and all it does is slow the plant down as it struggles to survive in a foreign environment. Instead, start the plant directly in soil, which is where it prefers to grow. My rule is: start aquatic plants in water, start terrestrial plants in soil!

Your pineapple plant will need a lot of sun (as much as you can give it, although it will grow – very slowly – in partial shade), normal indoor temperatures and a thorough watering when the potting mix is dry to the touch. You can fertilize it with a soluble fertilizer (any fertilizer: it’s not picky) during the spring and summer months, but it is not a very needy plant when it comes to feeding. Indoors, its growth is slow but continuous. It will love to spend its summer outdoors as long you acclimatize it gradually to outdoor conditions at the beginning of the season.

In a tropical country, pineapples flower in as little as 18 months (but 20-24 months is more typical). Indoors, it usually takes more time: 3 years or more. It’s the lack of light that delays maturation: it is difficult to give a plant the equivalent of full tropical sun outside of the tropics. If you just let it grow, it will bloom and produce fruit without any action on your part, but that can take up to 10 years.

However, you can encourage earlier flowering with the “apple in a bag” trick. When you judge your plant is physically mature, place it in a large plastic bag with a rotten apple. Remove the bag and apple after 24 hours. A very ripe apple gives off ethylene, a gas toxic to plants. The plant will respond to this toxic intrusion by trying to reproduce… and therefore will send up a flower stalk from its center a few weeks later. Soon you’ll have a growing pineapple fruit covered with rows of tiny purplish flowers. You have to calculate about 3 more months before the fruit is fully ripe. And yes, it will be perfectly edible!

You have to accept the fact that your pineapple plant will die after producing fruit. That’s the normal cycle of bromeliads, the plant family the pineapple belongs to. They bloom, produce seeds, then die. But as your fruit ripens, your plant will also produce a few “pups” (offsets), sometimes at the base of the plant, sometimes under the fruit … and what’s more, you can also start a new plant from the crown of your fruit. So, O.K., you will lose the mother plant, but at least she produces a host of babies before she goes! Pot them up in their turn and you’ll soon be well on the way to having your own indoor pineapple plantation!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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